Let me try to cover up my male chauvinist piggishness by quoting a woman. Margaret Mead, an accomplished independent female if there ever was one, said every important man needed at least three (or was it four?) wives. She added that she had two (or was it three?).
Wives were once chattel, maybe cattle, certainly purchased with cattle. This persists in some cultures though everywhere around the world women are rightfully demanding their rights. However, in many traditional cultures, a woman would bring assets to a marriage. Sometimes actual property and cash, more often when she had none, her backbreaking work.
It occurred to me to list such assets in women I've known. Two I married. Some I lived with. Some I had a relationship with. Some, a fling. Some, a flirtation. Some, a mere acquaintance. Here's what she brings:
She can pack a suitcase like nobody's business. In fact, like magic
She likes to clean toilets. Wow.
She irons sheets. I think of that every time I try to fold my wrinkled sheets. Particularly the fitted ones.
She's a computer geek.
She's a classical music geek.
She's an excellent driver.
She bears beautiful children and does a bang-up job of raising them. I actually married these two.
She's a great business woman who would allow me to live in the style to which I'd like to become accustomed.
In a crowded room club full of strangers she can score me a doobie.
She can carry heavy loads. I mean that literally.
She speaks fluent French and likes boy movies.
She is actually French and therefore gives really good, well, you know.
She's filthy rich (only, alas, passing acquaintance with such).
Her family used to own actual cattle (no longer the case when we met).
She's really good at ironing my clothes. But that would be my sister and incest is out of the question.
You get the picture. Pictures, actually, for no one woman I've known brings all these assets to the table, or rather to the altar and the bed. Polygamy is illegal, plus, in truth, it's a virgin boy's fantasy. Once a male actually has relationships with women the idea of a harem, i.e. several complex human beings, is not that appealing.
And in such a scheme I'd have to factor in what I bring to the table. I'm no sheikh of Araby, no African king, no Russian oligarch, no hunter/gatherer, no landowner, not even a hardworking peasant. The trades I've chosen are not the best paid. According to cold calculations I've never been a great catch.
I never factored these female assets in. I married and had relationships for love. Love and sex, which is what romantic love is about. Plus no matter how wistfully I think of ironed bed sheets, clean toilets or even wealth, one has to be true to oneself. My self followed other routes, other scents.
I think what Margaret Mead meant by wives was servants. Plus accountants and lawyers and nurses and other service professionals, all of which are plentiful and accomplished in our society. There are sexual professionals as well, but I draw the line there, with no judgement. I can live with my wrinkled fitted sheets.
Though just now, as I was wrestling down a very disorderly fitted sheet only to come up with something no neater or easier to put on a shelf than the messy bundle of fabric that came out of the drier, I thought, damn.